Fall is for pumpkin spiced lattes... and planting wildflowers!
After all, mother nature plants wildflower seeds in the fall, so why shouldn't we?
Wildflowers naturally drop their seeds in fall and oftentimes native varieties actually require a period of overwintering to germinate. The freezing, thawing, and/or extra moisture that winter delivers allow the seeds to break dormancy and germinate in the spring. Without this natural programmed dormancy, seeds would otherwise germinate on a sunny day in December and not survive to spring. For spring planting, folks will often imitate this overwintering period by putting the seed through what is called cold moist stratification- basically getting them wet and putting them in the fridge for 6-8 weeks. Luckily you can skip all of this fuss by planting your seeds in the fall and letting nature do its thing.
Other than convenience, some of the other benefits of fall planting are higher survival rates as many of the birds and insects that eat seeds are not a problem in the winter, wildflower seed planted in the fall will flower earlier the following spring/ summer, planting is quite easy since any other unwanted vegetation has died back at that point and fall is often when you can get the best selection of wildflower seeds.
Follow these easy steps for fall planting:
1) Choose the right time. Ideally wait until after the first frost, but before the ground is too frozen to work. In Northern Ontario this is generally from mid September to end of October.
2) Choose the right location. Pay special attention to the sun exposure, moisture and soil requirements of the varieties you are planting and choose your site accordingly.
3) Prepare the site. Remove all existing growth and debri and loosen soil.
4) Plant seeds. Scatter seeds and ensure good soil contact by either walking on seeds or using a seed roller. Do not cover seeds with soil, mulch or any other material. Do not apply fertilizer- wildflower seeds are very susceptible to root burn. If weeds are growing at your seed, the soil is good enough for wildflowers! Lastly, make sure to label your site well- many wildflower seedlings look like weeds!
5) Enjoy watching your spring wildflower garden grow.